The drama over the R-22 phasedown has been something of a soap opera. Just when you had adjusted to the fact that they killed off your favorite character, voila, they are raised from the dead! Manufacture of new equipment charged with R-22 stopped January 1, 2010. However, Carrier, Goodman, Lennox, Nordyne and Rheem are reported to be planning the production of dry R-22 condensing units for the replacement market. How is this legal? Well, these are for replacement, not new installation. And,. they are not charged with R-22 - at least not by the manufacturer. A dry unit is one that is evacuated and charged with dry nitrogen, not refrigerant. The units can be used to replace existing R-22 units and then charged in the field. The replacement installer needs to purge the nitrogen charge, evacuate the entire system instead of just the lines and coil, and then charge the system with R-22 according to factory recommendations. Alternatively, environmentally conscious contractors could opt for a non-ozone depleting R-22 replacement. Check out Fundamentals of HVAC/R for more specifics on how to properly install an air conditioning system.
These dry R-22 units would give customers an option other than replacing their entire system with a new high priced 410A system. In today's economy customers often simply cannot afford to purchase a complete R410A system. They are left with a few bad options. Do without, or put money into repairing an aging, inefficient piece of equipment that really should be replaced.
There are many questions to be answered, such as efficiency certification and avoiding potential legal landmines with the EPA. In some people’s minds it is not a good idea because they don’t believe today’s technicians properly evacuate the lines and coil on current systems. If these same folks charge an entire system without evacuating it, the head pressure would be so high that the system would likely not run long, if at all. This might be a blessing in disguise. If every unit they put in refuses to work, at some point even the most obstinate slacker would have to suspect that they are not doing it right. Success will depend more than ever on using skilled technicians that have the proper training. For more specifics, read the article on the Heating Air Conditioning and Refrigeration News website. R-22 has remained readily av available and the price has not spiked as much as had been predicted. Both of those situations may change if several major manufacturers start selling new products that require R-22 refrigerant. There are several R-22 work a likes now, but you had better check with the manufacturer before charging a new product with one of them. The equipment UL rating and manufacturer's warranty could possibly be voided by using an alternate refrigerant. For older equipment whose warranty has already expired, that is not too much of an issue. But for new equipment that still has a warranty, losing the the warranty would be a problem. Right now getting their efficiency certified is an issue. Air conditioners cannot be sold until they are certified to meet the minimum SEER rating. AHRI removed all their R-22 listing, thinking we were done with new R-22 systems. Stay tuned - it is bound to be interesting!